Thoughts For People Newly Diagnosed With Rheumatoid Arthritis: Part 2

In my last article, I talked about developing a support system and finding ways to boost your self-confidence. Today, I have two more suggestions for you.

Find a good doctor and healthcare team

Just like any relationship, no doctor/patient relationship will be perfect. That doesn’t mean a person should settle for anything other than a helpful, trustworthy, reliable, expert in the field of rheumatology.

I’ve learned that in dealing with any doctor - but especially one that you will be dealing with long-term - that his/her staff is also really important because they are the gatekeepers that relay your information. And no matter how great your MD is, he or she will only be as good as the information received. If I can’t reach my doctor when I’m having an acute issue, then over time I begin to lose trust and I find that I start trying to self-treat my symptoms which rarely works out well.

A rheumatologist that coordinates with my PCP

With a shortage of rheumatologists, people like myself who live in rural areas find it extremely hard to find a rheumatologist. What I ended up doing - after working with an extremely overworked and stressed local rheumatologist who just didn’t have the time for someone as complex as me - was finding another rheumatologist that I travel to who coordinates really well with my local primary care doctor.

Over the course of my 50-year history living with JRA, the times that I’ve had a really good rheumatologist have been the least stressful and most comfortable I’ve felt. This is why finding a rheumatologist I trust is one of, if not, the most important things I could recommend.

Leave more time for rest than you think you need

This is one thing that I’ve struggled with a lot throughout my life and, from what I hear, I’m not alone. RA is a part-time job. But, unfortunately, instead of earning money, it drains it instead - along with time and energy. Living a life that leaves room for self-care, social time, career, family, hobbies, etc., may seem laughable when you add RA to the picture and, at times, it is.

Self-care is key

I’ve spent most of my life putting pressure on myself to do more and, when I couldn't, berating myself for that fact. Then I realized I was thinking about it all wrong. What I finally realized was that when you live with a chronic illness like RA, self-care HAS to be the foundation from which everything else in your life is built.

As long as my basic needs are taken care of, I have to focus on keeping my body strong, my mind stronger, and prioritize things like physical therapy instead of putting it off. I’ve learned too many times that if I don’t do this, my body will completely crash and render me useless.

Taking care of my body makes me more productive

Basically, if I don’t take care of myself, my body will force me to, which is why I’ve learned to rest more. By allotting time each day to just lie down and rest, I know I’m going to be more productive and happier than if I would just have pushed myself through the day, and hopefully avoid the crash that happens if I push myself too hard for too long.

I hope after reading this you feel better able to handle life with RA and all that it brings, (and takes away.) Let me know your thoughts!

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